Ken-Betwa liaison project for the benefit of the Bundelkhand: The Tribune India
IN the article titled ‘The Ken-Betwa Project May Ravage the Bundelkhand’, published in these columns on December 22, Himanshu Thakkar questions the viability of the Ken-Betwa Link Project (KBLP) while highlighting its negative impact, especially on the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR). He also questioned the decision of the Union government for central support and implementation of the project pending final deforestation and the recommendations of the Empowered Central Committee (CEC) submitted to the Supreme Court.
The Bundelkhand region is frequently plagued by severe droughts, especially during the non-monsoon period. The region is also not very rich in groundwater due to hard rocks and marginal alluvium. Therefore, there is a need for a project of a scale that will help harness flood waters during the monsoon season and stabilize the availability of water in the region during the lean season, especially during the lean season. drought. Therefore, the government approved the implementation of the KBLP on December 8. It plans to provide huge benefits to the region covering annual irrigation of 10.62 lakh hectares, supplying drinking water to a population of around 62 lakh and also generating 103MW of hydropower and 27MW of solar energy, using approximately 4,909 million cubic meters (MCM) of water.
Coming to the points raised by Thakkar, stage II deforestation is granted if the conditions for stage I deforestation are met i.e. transfer of non-forest land / degraded forest land required for compensatory afforestation (CA), transfer of the cost of CA and the net present value (NPV) into the fund of the Management and Planning Authority of the State Compensatory Reforestation Fund (CAMPA), etc. , apart from other clearing conditions. The progress of these conditions can only be done after approval of the project by the government and budget support. Initially, the focus would be on land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R), environmental management plan, etc. before planning and starting construction.
The CEC’s recommendations have been thoroughly considered by a Special Committee on the Interconnection of Rivers (SCILR), headed by Union Minister Jal Shakti, the supreme body responsible for making decisions on various matters relating to ILR, at its 17th meeting held on February 26. 2020. Based on the recommendations of the CEC to examine the KBLP alternative through a specialized agency to meet the irrigation needs of the proposed control area, the Special Committee was of the opinion that all alternatives / Available options have already been considered while the preparation of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) and the KBLP was the only viable option to meet the water needs of the drought prone Bundelkhand region. The responses to the CEC’s recommendations have been submitted to the said commission by the National Water Development Agency (NWDA) and the case is pending before the Supreme Court. The court, in its judgment dated February 27, 2012, ordered the Ken-Betwa linkage project to be resumed for implementation at first instance itself.
The article indicates that the KBLP will result in a loss of 10,500 hectares of wildlife habitat in the PTR. The figure quoted is not based on facts. According to the detailed assessment carried out, the Daudhan Reservoir will result in the submersion of 4,141 hectares of the core area of ââthe PTR (approximately 7% of the total core area of ââ57,600 hectares of the PTR) and an additional 1,314.4 hectares in the buffer zone. of the PTR. The link channel will have an additional impact on 65.50 hectares of the main zone and 58.02 hectares of the buffer zone of the PTR. Thus, the total area affected by the project is only 5,578 hectares, or barely 3.5% of the total area of ââ1,57,800 hectares of the PTR. The author ignores that this loss of the central area of ââthe RPT is compensated by the provision of revenue land / degraded forest lands for compensatory afforestation near the RPT. The water lake created under the project will also be part of the PTR, thus increasing the overall surface area of ââthe PTR and its carrying capacity. According to the assessment carried out, approximately 43% of the submerged area will be available for pasture after November, which would lead to a significant increase in the herbivore population in the RPT. In addition, a Comprehensive Landscape Management Plan (PGT) is being prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity, not only in the PTR area but also in the surrounding area. in order to compensate for the impact of the Daudhan reservoir. . As part of the LMP, it is proposed to integrate the PTR with the Nauradehi Wildlife Reserve (WLS) and Durgavati WLS in MP and Ranipur WLS in UP to increase the carrying capacity of the PTR. Thus, the project aims not only to ensure water security in the Bundelkhand region, but also to ensure the overall conservation of the region, especially for landscape dependent species such as tigers, vultures and gharials. .
The article mentions that the cost of ecosystem services lost due to the diversion of forest land was not included in the cost of the project, which is in fact not correct. In the event of submersion due to the Daudhan reservoir, the value of eco-services of Rs 3,512.8 crore in the form of NPV of the submerged area has been added to the cost of the project, in addition to maintaining liberal provisions for compensatory afforestation and treatment. of the watershed.
The article further mentions that the project is intended to benefit the Haut Betwa region which is outside the Bundelkhand region. The author may not have gone through the details of the DPR. The project is expected to largely benefit the Bundelkhand region in two states. A supply of 2,266 MCM of water has been retained to meet the needs of the area below the Upper Ken Basin.
The hydrological studies for the project were carried out by the National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee, in accordance with the standard procedure followed for water resources projects in the country. The hydrology has been extensively reviewed and revised by the Central Water Commission.
The project will also rejuvenate all reservoirs in the link channel en-route area by feeding the link channel, where possible, and contribute to groundwater recharge. The use of micro-irrigation is also planned in about 5 lakh hectares of project control for better water use efficiency.
The fears about the viability of the KBLP are unfounded and devoid of realities on the ground in the region. Water is a key driver of overall socio-economic development in any region. The project would be a boon for the drought-prone and water-scarce Bundelkhand region. The project will certainly bring economic prosperity to this backward region due to the increase in agricultural activities and the cessation of migration of people from the region.